Atlantic Leather: Fish Leather: A by-product of the food industry
At The Sustainable Angle we spend much of our time researching and sourcing both innovative and sustainable materials to showcase in the annual Future Fabrics Expo. We show a wide range of alternatives with a lower environmental and social impact to cotton, polyester and conventional leather. These materials are also shown in other events and workshops throughout the year, and on www.futurefabricsvirtualexpo.com.
Atlantic Leather is an Icelandic tannery leading in manufacturing exotic leather from fish-skin which are waste products from the food industry. No fish used are endangered species. The fish-leather is produced from four different species of fish; Salmon, perch, wolffish and cod – each with its own unique characteristics – in a diverse range of colours, textures and finishes, all have been tested by the European Chemical Agency. Atlantic Leather is stationed in Sauðárkrókur, a small but vibrant community of roughly 4000 inhabitants, located in the heart of Skagafjörður, Iceland. The development of the fish leather has been processed since 1994, but the idea itself is rooted in tradition.
We have been lucky enough to interview Atlantic leather’s Manager Sigurlaug Vordís Eysteinsdóttir, to find out more about Atlantic Leather, and how fashion businesses and consumers cannot only use this material but visit where it is made.
TSA: Firstly, can you tell us what sustainability means to Atlantic Leather?
Atlantic Leather: Sustainability means the power of nature to us at Atlantic Leather. Respect nature and it’s power.
TSA: Can you provide a brief outline about the products Atlantic Leather creates, and what makes them more sustainable than other leathers?
Atlantic Leather: We produce Salmon, Perch, Cod and Wolffish leather from the by-product from the food industry. We also produce washable Salmon and Salmon tanned from the bark of the Mimosa tree. We turn waste products from the food industry into exotic luxury leather by using the power of nature. In Iceland we are fortunate to have plenty of hot water from geothermal sources, and our electricity comes from a hydroelectric power station. So we rely on the power of nature; exotic and eco-friendly.
TSA: What was the inspiration behind using fish skins to create leather for the fashion industry?
Atlantic Leather: Icelanders are known for reusing everything that others think is trash and we still have our ancestor’s spirit of finding the useful in everything. Iceland is a big fishing industry nation, our ancestors used the fish skins for their shoes, so the inspiration was, find a use for 100% of each fish Icelanders catch and Icelanders are on our way to completing that task, Atlantic Leather is a big part of that project.
TSA: Can you tell us about any positive environmental / social impacts you have seen or expect to see as a result of Atlantic Leather?
Atlantic Leather: Firstly, we don’t have any leather from endangered species, many designers have gone from snake skin to our Salmon skin for example. Atlantic Leather is the only tannery in Iceland and is based in the north of Iceland in a society with a population of 4000. Atlantic Leather was voted the best Tannery of the year in the European section that is a big recognition in our small country. Our leather is inspiring for people, we have so many colours and varieties of finish.
TSA: The fashion and textiles industries are some of the worst offenders out there for negative environmental and social impact. What do you think are the most pressing environmental and social challenges that we are facing in the industry?
Atlantic Leather: Money is the most challenging thing for tanneries. It costs a lot to be sustainable and because we are, then it makes our products expensive in the end. It is also important to stop playing hide and seek and start to open the tanneries up to customers so they can see it with their own eyes and be informed about sustainability. To be truly environmental you have to not be afraid to inform how you carry out the task, and when asked ethical questions, not being afraid of the answer.
TSA: What do you think is the biggest obstacle to becoming a more sustainable and less harmful industry?
Atlantic Leather: Again Money, For Atlantic Leather being stated in Iceland is our biggest obstacle but is also our biggest advantage
TSA: What are your plans moving forward?
Atlantic Leather: Just keeping up our 20-year process in our tanning product, keeping up our developments, and marketing our products more.
TSA: How can industry professionals and consumers get involved and engage with the work you are doing?
Atlantic Leather: Everybody is welcome to visit our tannery, they are able to order sample pack from us, we can ship all over the world, We are on social media, and visit our stand at The Future Fabric Expo☺